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Recommendations for Friday, January 17, 2014

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novelhistorical fiction

Unshelved strip for 1/17/2014

@bookblrb: Daring adventurer Delilah Dirk saved Selim's life because he makes the finest tea in Europe. Now he is in her debt.

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan, Nathan Fox

Link to this review by snow tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

Three wars. Three soldiers. Three dogs.

Boots is a border collie and a first-aid supply carrying mercy dog during World War I. Together with his young master, Marcellinus McDonald, Boots experiences the horrors of trench warfare and an unprecedented -- and all-too-temporary -- truce on Christmas Day in 1914.

Loki is a military sled dog stationed in Greenland in 1942. Along with Cooper, the soldier who loves and trains him, Loki goes on a daring rescue mission to find and save a downed pilot before the Nazis can get to him and the top-secret weapon he carries.

In 1968, Bouncer is a beagle puppy given to Henry, a boy whose family has just moved into a trailer park in Alabama. When Bouncer's high spirits get Henry in trouble, the pair meets Lanford, a Vietnam veteran haunted by his time in the jungle and thoughts of Sheba, the dog he had to leave behind.

Why I picked it up: Despite my aversion to reading books about dogs -- because the dogs almost inevitably die -- I have always been fascinated by stories of animals assisting the military during wartime.

Why I finished it: Keenan and Fox did an excellent job of putting me right into the heart of the action. The three stories were distinctly different from one another, which made them each strong in their own way. "Boots: World War I, December 1914" read like a traditional war movie, with a large cast of characters and just the right tension. I wondered who would crack up during battle, who would do something heroic, and who would live to see the next day. "Loki: World War II, Spring 1942" was more of an adventure movie, with Nazis and a blizzard to add heart-pounding action. I also liked that Loki's story featured an aspect of World War II that I was not aware of: the existence of United States military bases in Greenland and their use of sled dogs. Finally, "Sheba: Vietnam War, August 1968" was a more reflective story focused on the damage done to the soldier Lanford, first by the horrors of war, then by having to leave his dog behind so she could work with another soldier, and finally by the reception he receives when he returns home.

The art is densely drawn with lots of detail and rich colors, and put me in mind of Leland Purvis' work on Carla Jablonski's Resistance trilogy. It's a mature style that doesn't pander to a middle school audience and which favors emotional impact over blood and guts.

It's perfect for: Damian, who loves gritty, dramatic superhero comics. He'll be intrigued by the grim Nazi staring out of the eye-catching cover and drawn in by the action and sacrifice of the men and dogs in these stories, particularly that of 16-year-old Marcellinus who runs away to join the fight in order to stay with the Doctor who adopted him.

@bookblrb: Three wars. Three soldiers. Three dogs.

Halo Initiation by Brian Reed, illustrated by Marco Castiello

Halo—one of the most iconic video game franchises in history—comes to Dark Horse!

Before she was a supersolider defending humanity as part of the Spartan-IV program, Sarah Palmer was an ODST—Orbital Drop Shock Trooper—carrying out the most dangerous missions behind enemy lines!

Join her on her dramatic journey from the ranks of humanity’s toughest leathernecks to the highest echelon of elite warriors in the galaxy. Collects the three-issue miniseries.

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Johnny Hiro: The Skills to Pay the Bills by Fred Chao

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged graphic novel

Underpaid sushi chef Johnny Hiro tries to survive life in New York City. We meet Johnny’s landlord, Alex, attend a party given by Mayor Bloomberg, see an unexpected encounter on a subway, and find out the secret relationship between New York City and Los Angeles.

Why I picked it up: The first volume was packed with whimsy, heart, and surprises. I wanted more.

Why I finished it: Author Fred Chao continues to feint left and dodge right. In anyone else’s hands, Johnny’s lunch with his Japanese girlfriend Mayumi and his white ex-girlfriend Amanda might have been an awkward or unpleasant encounter suffused with race and jealousy, but instead there were bittersweet memories of the longings and missteps of youth. Then the giant ape attacks.

It's perfect for: My wife Sara. We spent a very special couple of weeks in Japan when she was carrying our son Theo (who now loves all things Japanese - coincidence?), and she will be interested in the origins of the feud between Johnny's boss Mr. Masago and his rival Shinto Pete, which begins in Tokyo with a hungry Sumo wrestler. Her soft heart will also love the unexpected backstory of the giant ape, which is all about a child’s love for its parent.

@bookblrb: An underpaid sushi chef tries to survive life in NYC. Then the giant ape attacks.

Style > Substance: (Young Avengers Volume 1) by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelsuperhero

Wiccan (reality altering son of the Scarlet Witch) and his boyfriend, Hulkling (shape changing Skrull), live with Wiccan’s foster parents. Hulkling has nothing but Wiccan, so Wiccan uses his powers to bring Hulkling’s mom back to life by snatching her from another dimension just before she was killed. Unfortunately she’s a controlling, motherly parasite who takes over the minds of adults. Luckily there are other heroic teens (Noh-Varr, Loki, Miss America, the teenage Hawkeye) around to help. Unfortunately all of their dead parents have been brought back to life, too, and they’re siding with Hulkling’s mom.

Contains material originally published in Young Avengers #1 - #5 and Marvel Now! Point One #1.

Publisher’s Rating: T+

Why I picked it up: My eleven-year-old daughter begged me to buy it for her, then she read it four times in a week.

Why I finished it: The book is absolutely beautiful, and the tone is spot on. Within a few pages I realized that this was the creative team behind the beautiful and beguiling Phonogram, and I knew I was going to like it as much as my daughter did. (Though I have to say that I’m a little disturbed that my daughter liked it this much. It is full of teens trying to defeat their controlling parents. Does this mean she thinks I’m some sort of extradimensional parasite?)

It's perfect for: Ang, a huge fan of Tom Hiddleston who played Loki in recent movies based on Marvel comics, because I think she’d like the chance to share this younger, innocent (yet still tricky) version of Loki with tweens she works with.

@bookblrb: Wiccan tries to bring his boyfriend's mother back to life. He accidentally summons a mind-controlling parasite.

Annihilation: A Novel by Jeff VanderMeer

If J.J. Abrams, Margaret Atwood, and Alan Weisman collaborated on a novel . . . it might be this awesome

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which will be published throughout 2014: volume two (Authority) in June, and volume three (Acceptance) in September.

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Embracing Love 2-in-1 Volume 1 by Youka Nitta

Link to this review by snow tagged graphic novelromance

Iwaki Kyousuke is a porn star growing dissatisfied with his career and life. He's given the opportunity to audition for a role in a movie based on a hot new book, Embracing Love, but he's up against Katou Yuji, an up-and-coming adult film actor. When the men are told to audition by having sex with each other (the movie is about the relationship between two male adult film stars), the experience stirs up emotions that neither is expecting. Iwaki is prepared to put those aside as his career begins to take a new and exciting direction, but Katou isn't willing to give up on Iwaki so quickly.

Publisher's Age Rating: M/Mature

Why I picked it up: I started reading Embracing Love back in the mid-2000s when it was being published by Be Beautiful. The publisher went under about halfway through the run. Then Nitta was caught tracing copyrighted advertisements to produce comics for the story, and briefly stopped creating. But fans’ desire for more of her work was high, and she's working on it again.

Why I finished it: Even though it has a distinct tendency towards melodrama, there is a sweet romance at its heart. When I picked this up again, I was worried that it would read as dated and cheesy to me. I first read this back when I had just discovered yaoi and male/male romance, and at that time I hadn't read enough to be able to judge this title within its genre. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was still just as moved by the romance. Iwaki is a very reserved, dignified man who is worried about his image and uncertain about giving in to true love. Katou, on the other hand, is fiery, excitable, and more than willing to leap without looking or considering the consequences. They usually negotiate their relationship via over-the-top declarations, usually on Katou's part, and lots and lots (and LOTS) of sex, but there are moments of real, quiet emotion which elevate the story.

Nitta's art is very beautiful. Her men are all long and lean, but with more muscle to them than most yaoi characters have; they actually look like men rather than boyish women. When they wear clothes, the clothes are a touch dated (the series did start in 1997), but Nitta makes up for that by blurring out the good bits less than other creators.

It's perfect for: Silvia, who’ll appreciate that the power between Katou and Iwaki is fairly equal, at least in yaoi terms. (The genre has a tendency to stick to traditional roles, with one of the men acting as the stereotypically female member of the relationship.)

@bookblrb: When two male porn stars audition for the same movie, they unexpectedly fall in love.

Characters in Action: (Adventures in Cartooning) by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged artgraphic novelhumornonfiction

When knight and her faithful horse, Edward, find a mob storming the castle, they rush in to protect the king. But he’s not there. Instead they find film director Otto Airs holding auditions for his new movie.

Why I picked it up: The Adventures in Cartooning series is awesome. The books are entertaining, make cartooning feel fun, and even make me feel like I might be able to draw.

Why I finished it: An audition is a brilliant way to show several different ways a character might be drawn. And the blank, peanut-shaped Jones and his kid, who can play any animal or character (think peanut-shaped lions, elephants, cowboys, etc) made me feel like I worry too much about my drawings looking exactly right.

It's perfect for: My wife’s robot-loving friend, Ellery. Though the out-of-control robot who tries to disrupt things is evil, she’ll love the cute replacements the mad scientist offers. And who wouldn’t like his Mash-O-Matic, a device which combines two things into one, creating characters like an eleph-ant and cock-a-doodle cheese doodles.

@bookblrb: Knight and her horse try to save the king from a mob, but stumble on an instructive movie audition.

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics: Vol. 1: The Paradigm Shift by Simon Oliver, illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez

Wormholes in your kitchen. Gravity failures at school. Quantum tornadoes tearing through the midwest. As with all natural disasters, people do what they always do: They adapt and survive. And if things get really bad, the Federal Bureau of Physics (FBP) is only a call away.

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics is the story of Adam Hardy: Young, brash and smart, he's a rising star at the FBP, but when a gravity failure leads to the creation of an alternate dimension known as a "BubbleVerse," Adam is sent on a rescue mission and finds his skills and abilities pushed to their limits when he discovers his partner has a different agenda…

Collects issues #1-7

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The Lovely Horrible Stuff by Eddie Campbell

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged biographygraphic novelnonfiction

Australian graphic novelist Campbell meditates on the power and perversity of money. Part I covers his own star-crossed romance with money: needing it, earning it, but trying to stay aloof from it, as befits (he thinks) a creative person. That works fairly well until the 2009 recession hits and he finds himself with little work in the pipeline and an outstanding loan to his father-in-law that he realizes will never be paid back. Part II shifts gears to the small Micronesian island of Yap, where Campbell and his wife get stuck on their way to Guam. The Yapese are noted for their currency: huge stone wheels called rai, which were one of the earliest forms of money. Campbell spends his unintended furlough on Yap learning all he can about rai, which are now just tourist sites, grown mossy and moldy through lack of care.

Why I picked it up: I’m always on the lookout for intriguing graphic nonfiction, and the book’s title had a charming nonchalance about it.

Why I finished it: I was transfixed by Campbell’s late-in-Part-I meltdown with his father-in-law. So many bad decisions! So much stubbornness! And having never heard of Yap, I found the history of the rai fascinating.

It's perfect for: My business school friend Marek, who shares Campbell’s world-weary, slightly cynical outlook on life and wealth and what it all means.

@bookblrb: Eddie Campbell meditates on his personal finances and the huge stone currency once used on Yap.

March: Book One by John Lewis

Link to this review by craigseasholes tagged biographygraphic novelhistory

Greeted by a visiting constituent in his office just as he is going out to President Obama’s first inauguration, Congressman John Lewis tells a mother and her two young boys the story of his early life and political activism during the 1960s Civil Rights struggles in the South.

Why I picked it up: Whenever a graphic novel on a social justice topic hits the market, I snap ‘em up fast as I can.

Why I finished it: Lewis’ reflections on his rural childhood, working with SNCC, and taking part in the Nashville lunch-counter boycotts of 1960 provide a great stage for showing his political awakening.

Readalikes: The Silence of Our Friends (also illustrated by Powell), which gives a personal view of racial tension in 1960s Texas, and James Sturm’s Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, which takes swing at racism in 1940s and 50s professional baseball.

@bookblrb: The story of Congressman John Lewis' early life and activism during the 1960s Civil Rights struggles.

The Night Wanderer: A Graphic Novel by Drew Hayden Taylor, illustrated by Mike Wyatt, adapted by Alison Kooistra

Great Graphic Novels for Teens nomination, YALSA

A mesmerizing blend of vampire thriller and coming-of-age story—now available as a graphic novel. Newcomers to the Otter Lake native reserve don’t go unnoticed for long. So it’s no surprise that 16-year-old Tiffany’s curiosity is piqued when her father rents out her room to a complete stranger.

But little do Tiffany, her father, or even her insightful Granny Ruth suspect the truth about their guest. The mysterious Pierre L’Errant has a dreadful secret. After centuries roaming Europe as a brooding vampire, he has returned home to reclaim his Native roots before facing the rising sun and certain death. Meanwhile, Tiffany is deeply troubled—she doubts her boyfriend is being faithful, has escalating disputes with her father, and her estranged mother is starting a new life with somebody else.

Fed up and heartsick, Tiffany threatens drastic measures and flees into the bush. There, in the midnight woods, a chilling encounter with L’Errant changes everything as Pierre introduces Tiffany to her proud Native heritage. For Pierre, though, destiny is fixed at sunrise.

In this stunning graphic version of the award-winning novel first developed as a play in 1992, artist Mike Wyatt brings a brilliant story to visual life.

“This title would be a great addition to any junior high or high school … Highly recommended.” —Library Media Connection, 10/04/13

“Most teens will relate to rocky family relationships and will enjoy the elements of fantasy and spirituality as a welcomed higher power that can help shift things into balance.”—VOYA, 12/13

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Heck by Zander Cannon

Link to this review by wally tagged graphic novelparanormal

Heck Hammarskjold, fading football hero, discovers an entrance to Hell in his father’s creepy old house. He fixes it up and starts an inheritance consulting business with his sidekick, Elliot. 

When an unrequited love of Heck’s, Amy, needs information from her late husband (and Heck’s one-time football rival), Greg, Heck and Elliot descend into the depths of Hell to get it.

Why I picked it up: I read Dante’s Inferno years ago, and while the details are fuzzy, there are some great images in that epic poem. This graphic novel depicts Hell in all its awful, stark moral dreadfulness, and the image of Elliot on the cover, completely covered in bandages because of a previous foray into Hell, made me wonder just how bad it could be.

Why I finished it: Heck’s interest in Amy got the story going, but as he learned more about the reason for his quest and faced ever-nastier demons, it was his friendship with Elliot that pulled him (and me) through.

It's perfect for: Flemtastic, who I think would enjoy the harsh depiction of Hell, because what good-natured, heat-packing, Christian father of four wouldn’t?

@bookblrb: A football hero and his sidekick discover an entrance to Hell and start a consulting business.

Happy! by Grant Morrison, Darick Robertson

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged graphic novelmysteryparanormal

Nick Sax is a jaded former cop who became a hit man after being blackmailed. He has a terrifying reputation on the streets. But one night a hit goes wrong, and the mob boss who hired Nick wants revenge. The two things keeping him alive are 1) everyone's belief that he knows a password which is the key to a fortune and 2) the little winged unicorn he has been talking to since he ended up in the hospital.

Why I picked it up: I was really excited to hear that Morrison and Robertson had teamed up. Morrison's The Invisibles is my favorite graphic novel series that I don’t completely understand, and Robertson’s art in The Boys never failed to impress me for bringing humanity to the most brutal heroes.

Why I finished it: Morrison always twists things in ways I don't expect. I certainly didn't expect a hit man to be haunted by the imaginary friend of a little girl kidnapped by a psychotic Santa. I really wanted to see if Happy could get Nick to cooperate and save the girl in spite of himself.

It's perfect for: Barnaby, who would probably find lots of gun mistakes to complain about, but would love the contrast between some really icky violence and the cute-yet-terrifying imaginary friends.

@bookblrb: A cop-turned-hitman is haunted by the imaginary friend of a kidnapped girl.

The Harlem Hellfighters: A Graphic Novel by Max Brooks, illustrated by Caanan White

From the bestselling author of World War Z, The Harlem Hellfighters chronicles the little-known story of the 369th Infantry Regiment-the first African-American regiment mustered to fight in World War One. Despite extraordinary struggles and racism, the 369th became one of the most successful—and least celebrated—regiments of the war.

"Brooks's text seethes with rage at the soldiers' mistreatment, but he insists that even the racists who saw them in action would have respected their accomplishments. Like the text, White's b&w art is intensely furious, emphasizing the war's chaotic horror. Reading the book is a painful, memorable experience." —Publishers Weekly

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The Property by Rutu Modan

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged graphic novelliterary

After Mica’s father dies, she and her grandmother, Regina, travel to Warsaw to reclaim a piece of real estate lost to their family during World War II. Mica thinks it’s a straightforward transaction -- find the lawyer, take over the deed -- but there’s more to the story. While an unscrupulous wannabe-in-law tracks the pair around the city and tries to interfere in their legal dealings, Mica meets a handsome cartoonist, and Regina revisits an old love. In the end it’s not the property that truly matters, it’s the family.

Why I picked it up: The cover caught my eye: a dark graveyard scene with splashes of color and light.

Why I finished it: Lost love! Found love! Unfortunately exposed chest hair! The many plot threads and shifting relationships kept me riveted.

It's perfect for: My friend Elizabeth, an attorney and observant Jew. I’d be interested in her take on the post-war laws of restitution that form the backbone of the plot. 

@bookblrb: Mica accompanies her grandmother to Warsaw to reclaim a piece of family real estate.

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